“What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?…And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide…the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down…do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”—- Sir Thomas More [Played by Paul Scofield, scripted by Robert Bolt (in a speech adapted from More’s writings) in the film of “A Man for All Seasons” (1966)]
My opinion of Rev. Terry Jones is a matter of record; to summarize, I think he is well beneath Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump, Tom DeLay, Goldman Sachs, Nancy Pelosi, Eliot Spitzer, AIG, Charlie Rangel , Mark Sanford, Barry Bonds, “Ronbo” and most of the other members in bad standing on the Ethics Alarms Bottom 100. Determined as he is to sully the First Amendment with his disgraceful and hate-soaked use of it, however, he is an American, and he has rights. A Dearborn, Michigan jury, prompted by the city, has taken away those rights by preventing him and another fool from protesting outside a local mosque.
Their actions threaten all Americans as a prior restraint on free speech and the right to demonstrate. To its undying credit, the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization staffed with progressives and liberals from top to bottom, is taking up Jones’s cause.
Earlier this month, the organization rescued the job of Derek Fenton, a New Jersey Transit worker who was fired for burning pages of the Koran to protest the planned “Ground Zero Mosque.” The New Jersey chapter of the A.C.L.U. got him his job back, seven months of back pay, and $25,000 in damages. Right on. Fenton’s protest was offensive and wrong-headed, and Jones is willing to get people killed in riots overseas to keep his mustache in the news. Nonetheless, we dare not let the government tell any citizen what is a “proper” subject for protest.
Sometimes bad people are connected to vital values, and it is impossible to protect one without helping the other. That’s when we find out exactly how much we care about core principles. The A.C.L.U. has passed its test with colors flying. Sir Thomas would be proud.